How To Clean Your Pennies

How To Clean Your Pennies

So how do you clean all of those pennies that you find while metal detecting? Well, there are a few techniques that you can use, and the following are the most common ways.

First, I want to say that you should never clean a valuable coin! Serious coin experts can spot a cleaned coin almost instantly and consider a cleaned coin to be a damaged coin. If you think that you have a valuable penny, be sure to take it to a reputable coin dealer before you clean it!

Having said all of that, this article will focus on ways to clean common copper pennies such as wheat pennies or pre 1982 pennies which are dug while metal detecting.

How To Clean Your Pennies



Soap and Water

Before trying the following techniques to clean your coins, you should start by using soap and water. I personally use Lemon Joy to clean coins with. Basically you squirt a small amount of soap on your fingers and then take the coin and gently rub it between your fingers until the surface dirt it gone. Then, rinse the coin with water and dry with a soft cloth.

Baking Soda

Making a paste like consistency, Mix Baking Soda and Water in a bowl. Then pinch a small amount of the paste between your thumb and index finger. Take the penny, and rub it between your fingers as you cover the entire coin with the paste. Working in circular motions tends to work best.

After a few minutes, rinse the penny and your fingers with water and then dry the coin with a soft cloth.

Pencil Eraser

This technique is very easy and involves using a ‘Soft’ pencil eraser. Be sure to use new pencils as the older erasers can become hardened and may leave scratches on your coin. All you have to do is hold the penny in one hand while using a pencil eraser in the other hand to rub the dirt and oxidation off of the coin. Again, use circular motions and gently clean the coin.

Tomato Ketchup

While watching the T.V. show “American Restoration”, Rick shared this technique for cleaning copper. Basically you take a small amount of Ketchup and cover the front and back of the penny with it. I usually use a styrofoam bowl with a number of pennies in it, and then cover them liberally with the ketchup.

After about 3 minutes, the pennies will turn from a dull brown to a bright copper color. If you would like the penny to be brighter, you can use the “Baking Soda” technique above to make your coin even more shiny.

Lemon Juice or Vinegar and Salt

This is my main way of cleaning not only pennies, but other clad coins as well. I prefer this method because it does a great job of cleaning coins so that they can be spent at the store. Add about 1/4 cup of Vinegar and about 1/2 teaspoon of Salt in a cup or bowl. Then stir the solution up a bit. Next add your pennies to the solution and gently shake them around so that the coins aren’t stacked on top of each other.

After five or ten minutes, check your pennies and see if they are to your liking. If not, wait another five or ten minutes until they are the desired color. To add more luster to the coins, you can use the “Baking Soda” technique mentioned above.

Rock Tumbler

A simple hobby rock tumbler is an easy way to clean your clad coins and pennies. Add the pennies, some aquarium gravel, a squirt of dish soap, and let the coins tumble for as long as it takes to get them clean.

I like to use the Vinegar and Salt method in my tumbler and leave out the gravel because I have learned that the coins get clean faster..

Final Thoughts

It’s recommended that you Do Not clean a collectible penny! Cleaning your valuable pennies will actually Decrease the value of the coin!

Be sure to check with a knowledgeable source if you think that your penny is a valuable one Before cleaning your pennies.

Note: Use all of the above methods at your own risk as we do not condone cleaning coins, especially high grade coins!

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Photo Credits

R Williams

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